Bullying in Headstart

by PammyMcB

Originally posted on April 16, 2001

“Damien got his hand smashed with a shovel at school!

I have had many talks with the teacher about Damien being picked on at school. I do realize that he is different and may bring some of this on himself. However, I am tired of him getting beat up on a daily basis. He is only five years old and in Headstart! I went to the principal’s office this morning and explained to her what is going on. I told her that I DO NOT send my child to school to be unsupervised. I just want him to be safe!

Damien has run off from school twice and nobody noticed! Enough is enough. I have been up there twice during recess to look for him.

Damien had an appointment, so I went to pick him up. The teachers were all in a little huddle talking and did not know where he was. I had to go find him. This was one of the times he was missing. He was outside of the fence looking for ladybugs.

Damien has stated to me that every time he gets hurt, it is on the playground. He says he tells the teacher, but she does nothing. When I picked him up on Friday, his finger was very swollen, black, and infected. He has been on anti-biotics every since. The teacher thought that since he did not cry, it was not serious. I have told her numerous times that he doesn’t cry, even when he is hurt. He hasn’t cried in a very, very long time.

When I arrived to pick the kids up from school, the teachers seemed upset with me for talking to the principal. What else was I supposed to do? They are obviously not doing any thing about it.”

Over the years, we have had to deal with consistent bullying like this. What breaks my heart is that it has been going on since Damien first started school. We are currently in Damien’s thirteenth year of school, and the bullying has not stopped. For a matter of fact, Damien was recently targeted by a child with firecrackers that were thrown at his head, and he has had milk thrown on him after teachers learned that the girls (yes, I said girls) in his Bible class had set Damien up to be kicked out of the class. They told him to tell the teacher a dirty joke. He did not understand or recognize the words in the joke, so he told the teacher the joke. It was after Damien was suspended that the truth came out, and the mark was removed from his permanent record.

Well, I hate that the bullying has not stopped back. It did stop once, and that is when he was in middle school. Damien became so angry from being bullied in gym that he punched the locker. When he did, the locker dented. Although the boys did not bully Damien and Dylan for the remainder of the year, I found myself at the end of another heated discussion with the principal, who warned me that next time he will make us pay for a new locker. I responded that I feel I am not responsible for the damage to the locker, that the principal, himself, was responsible. I told him that I am sick and tired of him telling me, “If we do something about the bullying, the bullying will just get worse.” This was not the first time that we heard this. We had also heard it from the three different elementary schools that my boys attended.

Unfortunately, the bullying has extended over the years to Dylan as well. It has put a strain on the relationship between the two brothers. Dylan has difficulty with Damien’s foibles, and he does get embarrassed from time to time. Sometimes, I have to remind him that the behaviors stem from Damien’s autism, and I also help him recognize how Damien has grown and matured over the years.

I do agree with Dylan that it is not fair that people pick on him because his brother is non-typical. Being the sibling of an non-typical sister myself, I can totally relate to how Dylan feels. But, as a mother of a child with autism, I do not feel it is fair that Damien is treated the way that he is either, nor is it fair to DJ and me.

Bullying affects all of us, and we all have to remember that no matter how difficult it is for us, we have no clue as to how it effects Damien. It is difficult for him, especially when he realizes that he was set up or taken advantage of. With that being said, I am very proud that Damien has decided that he is okay with his eccentricities and has decided that he will be himself now and try not to worry about what other people think of him.

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